Reviewing the movie for Patch were: Konrad Herling, Sheila Maffay-Tuthill, Anna Socrates and I was representing Patch.
Facebook "War Horse" Face Off
Konrad Herling: Major themes: courage, optimism in spite of the odds, and of course, the incredible sustainability and courage of "Joey.”
Bailey Henneberg: So who wants to start? How many pops would you give Black Beauty goes to war?
Anna Socrates: Ugh. I don't know that I would give it very many. Too violent and too manipulative… Maybe some Milk Duds. Spielberg is such a manipulative filmmaker. I cried. You all heard me, but I felt annoyed about it afterward.
Animals, Actors and Cinematography
Anna Socrates: I think Spielberg goes for easy emotions. Or maybe I just hate to see animals mistreated. I couldn't wait for the Humane Society announcement at the end. The horses were wonderful though. They were the best actors. Oh and Emily Watson and the grandfather [Niels Arestrup]. First he saves Sarah ["Sarah's Key,"] then he saves the horse. There was a stunning shot at the end, where you see that sunset and the silhouettes of Albert on the horse and Emily Watson — that was very painterly. But I still felt manipulated by Spielberg. And I know he's used that type of shot before.
Bailey Henneberg: I thought Janusz Kaminski's cinematography may have been the best thing about the movie. I don't mind reused shots when they're that good.
Reviewers Take the Gloves Off: Manipulative or Great Filmmaking
Anna Socrates: OK. How Spielberg plays with people's emotions — manipulative or great filmmaking? I've made it clear where I stand on this issue.
Bailey Henneberg: Manipulative. How many times can Black Beauty, I mean Joey, face death and defy it miraculously before it starts feeling contrived?
Sheila Maffay-Tuthill: Manipulative is my vote. Spielberg was heavy-handed in the early saccharine parts and went too far in the horror of the war.
Konrad Herling: But war is horror.
Sheila Maffay-Tuthill: I had to cover my eyes during each battle scene! Definitely not for under 14 — this is promoted as a family film, and you can convey the horror without sadism towards your audience.
Anna Socrates: I thought Spielberg did "war is horror" better in "Saving Private Ryan." Again, I see way too many war movies. “Joyeux Noel” did the fraternizing over enemy lines much better. And it was based on an actual event. There was an Xmas Eve unofficial armistice, so the belligerents could come out of the trenches and bury the dead.
Sheila Maffay-Tuthill: Yes — maybe it would have been less difficult to watch in the hands of a more delicate director — Spielberg did not use nuance.
Anna Socrates: Yeah, a sledgehammer where a scalpel would have done.
Konrad Herling: I think that Spielberg demonstrates the emotion. The rescue scene was a key point. From my perspective, he made me more sensitive to what the horse's viewpoint was. I know I've thought of what horses went through in war, but not very much. Remember the general projecting that the stronger horses would last two months… I disagree with the manipulative point of view.
Anna Socrates: Konrad, You are on the side of Spielberg as great filmmaker then.
Sheila Maffay-Tuthill: The opening scenes reminded me of an animated scene —“Snow White” or “Bambi” maybe — It was manipulatively sweet and did not attempt to be realistic. I expected a chirping bluebird to show up onscreen.
This time instead of giving you four separate reviews, we're giving you review discussion in four parts. This is part one.
Reviewers were working with different connection speeds, so the chat has been edited to keep conversation topics together. It has also been edited for grammar and trimmed.